In 2022, Vana Events joined the initiative Green Deal Circular Festivals. This Dutch initiative has been working since 2011 to motivate and inspire organisations to reduce the environmental impact of European festivals as much as possible by 2025.
This initiative forms a partnership in which organisations can exchange experiences and inspire each other. Each festival has its own focus, as each festival has its own challenges and audience. Participating organisations include MOJO (Down the Rabbit Hole, Lowlands, North Sea Jazz), Stichting Vierdaagsefeesten and Alles Komt Goed B.V. (Zwarte Cross, Manana Manana).
Find out more about the initiative here.
Why a Green Deal?
Every event that has joined The Green Deal has its own goals and focus points. Castlefest has been mindful of the waste streams the festival creates and how to lessen these. Since the first edition, we have been working with a deposit system for cups. Our partners and visitors share our beliefs and help reduce the amount of waste at the festival. Still, there is always room for improvement.
In this Green Deal collaboration, we can exchange information and insights with other events. As each organisation has different goals and experiences, we can learn a lot from each other.
Castlefest focuses on further reducing our ecological footprint, but also how we can involve you as a visitor in this.
What were we already doing?
Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. We've been looking at options to organise Castlefest in greener ways for years. However, it is always important to weigh up the pros and cons of this. For that, we take as our starting point: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We reduce the amount of waste we produce, reuse what we can and recycle materials to give them a new purpose.
Since 2021, more and more disposable plastic products have been banned in the Netherlands. When it was announced in 2022 that all Dutch festivals would have to ban disposable plastic by 2024, many places introduced the deposit system for cups, allowing visitors to take these cups with them by paying a deposit. It was a hot topic at many panels, meetings and even talk shows.
Thankfully for Castlefest, this is nothing new: since the first edition, you have been getting your drink at the bar in an earthenware cup. When ordering drinks, you pay extra coins as a deposit for the cups. After the cups are empty, you can return them to the bar and receive the deposit back.
Gelukkig is dit voor Castlefest niets nieuws: al sinds de eerste editie krijg je je drankje bij de bar in een aardewerken beker. Bij het bestellen van drinken betaal je extra munten als borg voor de bekers. Nadat de bekers leeg zijn kun je ze terug inleveren bij de bar en ontvang je de borg terug.
Besides saving a lot of plastic waste, the cups also give that extra Castlefest feeling. They match the beautiful costumes and are also a nice souvenir after another successful edition. And remember Pass the Magic? You can find the video on Facebook and Instagram.
If you have been coming to Castlefest for many years, you might remember: there used to be earthenware plates on which caterers' food was served. These were made by hand and had uneven pieces that made them all slightly different in shape. This made it challenging to get these plates cleaned properly and were also difficult to stack. This gave us logistical challenges and ultimately a huge cost in transportation, replacing broken plates and water consumption when cleaning.
Fortunately, our caterers share our values of using as little single-use plastic as possible. After we stopped using the plates, they have been serving their food on dishes made of paper, wood and bamboo - this was way before the plastic variants were banned from the government.
We also had our first trial of reusable and recyclable tableware during Castlefest 2022. You can read more about this later in the blog.
Behind the scenes
We are happy to share these changes for you as visitors in our process towards a circular event, but the changes behind the scenes are at least as important.
Some of these changes are experienced by over 1,000 people. Those are the changes we made in the service area of the volunteers. For instance, the loose cups and drinks from cartons are long gone. Every volunteer is given a plastic refillable water bottle when they check in at the beginning of the festival. They can fill this with water or the various juices at the post-mix machine. This saves a lot in space, transport and refrigeration. Disposable paper plates for food from the crew catering have also been replaced with real dishes for ages - which are put through a large dishwasher after use.
When you apply to volunteer through our volunteer website, you answer a few food-related questions, such as having any allergies. This, along with the number of people joining us for dinner, is taken into account in the crew catering's planning. This way, a menu is put together where there is always a choice of two dishes during the festival days. This reduces food waste. Are there left overs? Those make a tasty addition to lunch the next day!
What are we doing now?
In addition to the changes that have already been implemented over the past decade, we have been keeping an extra close eye on all processes since 2019.
Besides the changes that are visible for you, there are also less visible changes. We are constantly looking at ways to reduce what we use. For example, connected generators were used that worked together to run in the most fuel-efficient way.
The options for fuel-efficient toilets for events are also expanding. For example, how about flushing the toilet with the water from washing hands!
Materials and products are delivered on the festival site during set-up whenever possible. This saves an extra trip from our office and storage in Groningen to Lisse.
We're proud to say, we have the best festival visitors! After the festival, the grounds are manually checked and all remaining waste is cleared away. It is always striking how clean you keep the festival grounds!
Reducing the amount of waste is also a focus for our own catering. For the soft drinks at our Vana Bar, we choose bottles delivered in crates wherever possible to reduce the amount of disposable plastic that would otherwise be wrapped around a delivery.
Previously, when cleaning up during and after the event, we found many program booklets on the grounds and in the trash cans. This made us realise that paper booklets are often seen as a disposable product after all. To reduce the amount of paper thrown away and keep our grounds cleaner, we started offering three options in 2022:
- The program booklet at the info stand at a cost of half a coin, for visitors who like to take the booklet home as a memento. We use the proceeds from this to cover the extra cost by opting for recycled paper.
- An online version. This version of the booklet can be viewed as a PDF and via an app on your phone.
- A printable version. These stripped-down versions contain little colour and design. This way, you can print exactly the pages you need at home, without wasting ink on embellishments and images.
Pilot reusable tableware
During Castlefest 2022, we had a trial of new reusable and recyclable trays, plates and cutlery at a number of caterers. After using the dishes, you throw the food scraps in the waste bin and stack the dishes in the large crates at the catering square. These are collected and then disposed of properly.
This pilot was part of LabVlieland's 'Herbruikbaar servies op festivals’ project for Green Deal. Not only we as Castlefest were part of this pilot, Into the Great Wide Open and DGTL also participated.
What will we do next?
For the coming years too, we will stick to find ways to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle.
For example the reusable tableware. From the feedback we received after the pilot, we looked at how to make this run even better. As a result, we can proudly announce that during Castlefest 2023 all catering will be using reusable tableware.
We are also taking another step further in (under)separating waste and raw materials. For example, the plan is to filter the wastewater from the showers and use it to flush the toilets. Also planned, among other things, is a combination of battery packs and generators. These battery packs can power much of the festival. They are connected to the main power supply on location and recharge this way. This means the generators are only needed as support at peak times and will therefore run significantly less.
There are always ways to improve. Changes are sometimes small, sometimes big, and sometimes expensive. We continue to look at our festival with an open mind and see what feasible steps we can take. We take into account everyone involved in the festival and what impact a change will have. In this way, together with you, we ensure an ever-greener Castlefest!
If you have a good idea, let us know!